The One Movie You Should See This Week

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The Coens go west, Sofia Coppola employs Stephen Dorff, and an animated magician tugs your heartstrings. Who gets your ticket money?

True Grit

Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Hailee Stanfield

It's beginning to look a lot like Oscar season, everywhere you go. So why not skip the last minute shopping and just buy multiplex gift cards for everyone on your list? And while you're at it, why not give yourself a gift and see the Coen Brothers' latest brainy, bravura masterpiece? Sure, you'll have to pay a bit more attention than usual to the twisty Old West dialogue in the opening scenes, as precocious teen firebrand Mattie (Hailee Stanfield) teams up with a cocky Texas Ranger (Matt Damon, showing his chops as a character actor) and the besotted, one-eyed U.S. Marshall "Rooster" Cogburn (the Dude, abiding as always in the John Wayne role). But once they (and the story) hit the trail, the suspense and emotional stakes really kick into gear, building to a climactic reminder of the old-school power of a classic Western showdown.


Director: Sofia Coppola
Cast: Stephen Dorff, Chris Pontius

Or, if you'd prefer to celebrate family over the holidays (and fear Little Fockers may not live up to the formidable comedic standards of Meet the Fockers), then you might try the latest from Sofia Coppola, the auteur of beautiful mopery who brought us The Virgin Suicides, Lost In Translation, and Marie Antoinette. In this Hollywood fantasia, a tabloid-bait movie star's decadent Chateau Marmont lifestyle is disrupted by a surprise visit from his eleven-year-old daughter — and while the premise would surely devolve into a treacly, high-concept hugfest in the hands of a hackier director, the trailer, the reviews, and Coppola's batting average have me excited about seeing a Stephen Dorff movie for the first time since… well, ever.

The Illusionist

Director: Sylvain Chomet
Cast: Paul Bandey, Jean-Claude Donda

But what about the kids? What terrible Jack Black or CGI-bear movie will you be forced to endure over Christmas vacation with your own little fockers this year? Well, if you're lucky enough to live near a theater that's showing it, you may have a more palatable option: this non3D animated film about a melancholy old magician from Sylvain Chomet, the director of 2003's ridiculously charming Triplets of Belleville. And speaking of triplets, this is one of those rare weeks where I'm actually excited about all three of the new releases in contention. But since I've already caught a screening and can thus fully vouch for its entertaining grit, I'll give the Coen Brothers' fifteenth feature the nod (and wish you all a Very Merry Festivus)!

The One Movie You Should See This Week: True Grit